How to give great impromptu speeches and do well in job interviews

ExecuTips - by Robert Labayen

Posted at Jun 05 2015 04:03 AM | Updated as of Jun 05 2015 12:03 PM

Even the best speakers go blank when asked to speak on the spot. So, the best way to make an impressive impromptu speech is: to not make an impromptu speech.

Be secretly prepared. When there’s the tiniest chance that someone will ask you to speak to a crowd or in front of a camera, better have a mental outline ready. Don’t wait for anybody to tell you.

I have been a principal sponsor in so many weddings. On many occasions, they ask the sponsors to make a speech without giving them any prior advice. They probably expect wedding sponsors to already have a lot of wisdom about marriage.

As a more or less senior member of the corporate world, these are other examples of when you might be asked to speak off the cuff: your department wins an award, beginning or end of a seminar, anniversary of anything, a welcome ceremony, somebody’s birthday, farewell party, or funeral.

I always come to such occasions prepared because there’s always at least 10% chance that I might be asked to say something. I prepare before I reach the venue so that when the party begins, I can freely socialize. If I prepare when I’m already on site, I will be both too preoccupied to hobnob and too distracted to think. If, after all, I was not asked to speak, it’s so ok. I didn’t have to hide, worry or pray.

All you have to prepare anyway is an outline. Outlines are easy because all speeches have only three parts: beginning, middle and end.

The beginning makes your audience expect that your message will be interesting. The middle sustains their interest through a series of examples or facts, or a chronology of events. The ending is a fitting conclusion. It may the reaffirmation of the point you’re making or a picture of the future. It may be anything but make this the best part because this is where you get the applause.

If your impromptu speech is meant to honor somebody, you can choose to direct attention to them so that they applaud or cheer for them instead of you. You do this when you’re uncomfortable about having too many eyes on you.

Photo by Johnny Delos Santos

A speech is good when:

It’s not about you. It should be about the people getting married, or celebrating their birthday, anniversary, graduation or award. If you’re the one being honored, you may talk about yourself but also deflect the tribute to other people.

It has feelings. People are engaged when the speech is emotive, funny, inspiring, thrilling, suspenseful, thought-provoking, unpredictable. I suggest you avoid scary.

Short. Specially if it’s an impromptu speech.


The job interview is more scary than the interview portion in a beauty pageant. Job interviewers are not trying to be charming.

The best way to prepare is to anticipate all the possible questions. Try to imagine even the most unlikely and unpredictable ones. Have a mental rehearsal of how you will enthusiastically answer the questions while also appearing spontaneous.

This is easy. But I have actually seen applicants whose answers are so distant from the question. When the applicant is unsure, they usually take the long, circuitous route and still miss the target by a mile. This gets the interviewer very, very frustrated.

Interviewers are very impressed when you have sure, short and “candid” answers to questions like:

“What do you think of our company/products?”
“What would you like to do to change our company/product?”
“How do you see yourself 5 years from now ?”

Many interviewers like to say “It’s your turn to ask me. Do you have any questions about our company?“ You should have a prepared answer for that, too.

Sometimes they don’t ask questions that you had wanted to be asked. In this case, you may put a natural connection to your related replies.

When preparing for the interview, you don’t need to make up things. Honesty is always the best policy. Be really honest; otherwise, how would you satisfy expectations if you get a job you’re not qualified for?

Anticipating interview questions is all about being ready with the right words to say. That’s because groping for words makes you look uncertain and untruthful about your answers.

Whether doing an impromptu speech or going to be interviewed, the main secret is preparation. The great public speaker Abaraham Lincoln said “give me six hours to chop down a tree, I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”


If you have concerns about your job or if you wish to suggest a topic, you may email me at [email protected]

I would assume that you’re giving me permission to publish your email ( if chosen) and my reply. Your identity will not be disclosed.

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About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.